How the G20 conference in Kashmir is more than just a summit but a time for renewal

The G20 Tourism Working Group conference is the first major international occasion to take place in Jammu & Kashmir after Article 370 was repealed. The administration wants to demonstrate that the decision has given peace to the Valley and set it on the path to development while drawing attention to Kashmir.

On August 5, 2019, the Union cabinet made a historic decision to repeal Article 370, which gave Jammu and Kashmir unique status. Three years later, the Valley has been made ready to receive foreign dignitaries for the famous G20 tourism meeting, in what is perceived as a move by the Centre to show how “normalcy and peace” have been restored in the unrest-plagued region.

More than 100 meetings have been scheduled nationwide by the government as India would be the G20 presidency in 2023. It had always been the plan to host an event in Jammu and Kashmir. These ambitious objectives, however, were almost foiled by a spate of terrorist assaults and deliberate killings of civilians. In four incidents this year, there have been ten military and seven civilians murdered.

However, the Modi administration persisted, and on May 22, the three-day event got under way at the heavily guarded SKICC complex on the shores of Dal Lake in Srinagar. After some adjustments and a significant bolstering of security measures.

People in Srinagar are “going about with their activity” now, in contrast to the past when an event of this magnitude would have prompted a mass strike, according to MoS Jitendra Singh.
“Jammu and Kashmir has advanced, as has the average person. He has witnessed the sacrifice of two generations of Kashmiris on the altar of terrorism supported by Pakistan, and he is no longer willing to do so.
Jitendra Singh highlighted the Valley’s improvements by stating, “It is indeed a moment of rejuvenation, a moment of reincarnation‚Ķ”

CONTENTION AND OPPOSITION

People may have “moved on” at home, but the Kashmir issue is still contentious in other countries. The decision to host the summit in Srinagar was criticised by Pakistan’s foreign minister, Bilawal Bhutto, who called it a “show of arrogance to the world” and evidence of New Delhi’s “pettiness”.

China, a longtime ally of Pakistan and a G20 member, objected to the summit being held on “disputed territory” and declared it would not go. Oman, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia all did the same.

Organisation of Islamic Countries members Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, and Oman frequently display their obsession with Kashmir in response to Pakistan’s nudges. Saudi Arabia and Turkey, though, haven’t completely shunned the three-day gathering in Srinagar.

The absence of Egypt from the event, however, surprised political observers.

Egypt, a non-G20 member, was invited as a special guest. This year’s Republic Day parade in India featured the president of the nation, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Despite rumours that it might skip the event, Indonesia dispatched a delegation through its embassy in New Delhi. In addition, trade delegations from Turkey and Saudi Arabia attended to take part in the tourist meeting.

SECURITY TIGHTENED

Jammu and Kashmir Police stated that security has been increased “to avoid any chance of terrorist attack during the G20 meet” as a result of militants ratcheting up attacks in recent months.

Armed personnel carriers and soldiers were stationed across Srinagar on Monday. The delegates’ route as well as the section from Airport Road to Dalgate were heavily patrolled by security personnel.

Police and paramilitary troops are working with the elite National Security Guard and Marcos commandos to secure the sites, and the Boulevard Road surrounding them has been declared a three-day no-go area.
Exercises in “area domination” and sanitization have been done in and around the locations, along the route, and in susceptible areas of the city. Sniffer dogs and scanners have been sent to search for explosives and IEDs.


According to officials, vehicles going through Srinagar are randomly scrutinised to make sure that no subversive elements are able to reach the city.

ATITHI DEVO BHAVA

The 61 delegates from 29 countries who landed on a chartered aeroplane at the international airport in Srinagar on Monday have been welcomed with open arms by the Centre.
At the Srinagar airport, the G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant and Union Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy welcomed the international delegates. Floral garlands and traditional song and dance performances by local artists welcomed them and showcased Kashmir’s rich cultural history.
They were transported to the location while being heavily escorted by police. To welcome the delegates, G20 emblems have been painted on the walls and hoardings along the route.

Delegates also had the opportunity to interact with Ram Charan, who spoke at the three-day conference’s programme on Film Tourism for Economic and Cultural Preservation. The actor appeared to be teaching the Korean Ambassador how to do the song’s iconic hook dance as he moved to the beat of the Oscar-winning song Naatu Naatu.

A HOPE FOR REVIVAL

On the ground, attitudes are positive. The summit is expected to increase tourism, which is Jammu and Kashmir’s main source of revenue.
Exporter of Kashmiri carpets Sheikh Ashiq said, “Holding such an international conference in Kashmir for the first time is special for the entire country. For Kashmir, this is a proud occasion. It will benefit not only the tourism industry directly but also other industries that are connected to it.
With welcome boards at the airport referring to the area as “paradise on earth,” the Centre is stepping up its efforts to promote tourism in the area, which is home to stunning mountain scenery.

According to Union Tourism and Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy, film tourism has become a potent tool for promoting the tourism sector, and the government is developing a detailed plan for its expansion in J&K.

Through the G20 delegates, the administration is trying to spread a sense of progress.

Union minister Jitendra Singh stated, “I hope that when our friends go back, they will be our ambassador about the situation here and how it appears.

If there is a heaven on earth, it is here, according to Sufi mystic poet Amir Khusro, who is quoted as saying: “Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast.” Kashmir is now experiencing a period of “revival and rejuvenation” after years of murder and turmoil. Perhaps the time will come soon when it will once more be a true paradise.

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